There’s just one good reason to shop at Wal-Mart: it sells things cheap. The bad reasons form a conga line snaking out the door and into the parking lot.
Its employees have no union protection.
They have no job security.
They earn poverty-level wages.
They’re treated like field hands.
Workers who succeed in organizing individual stores–as was done last year in Quebec–find the shops boarded up.
The corporation’s dominance of the retail sector–a dominance that comes from its low wage, few-benefits policy–threatens better-paying employers and their workers. Most Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million workers get no health benefits, and those who do still need government help through Medicaid, which in effect acts as a taxpayer-provided subsidy to a private employer. An estimated $2.7 billion in welfare annually goes to working but poor and underpaid Wal-Mart workers.
UFT President Randi Weingarten told a City Hall rally Aug. 17 supporting a council bill requiring medium to large grocers to provide their workers with health care that "The more taxpayer money the city and the state spend on the health care of New Yorkers working for profitable, private companies, the less money there is for education and other important things." Bill sponsor Christine Quinn said the bill "will stop one more kind of corporate welfare and be a blow to the bottom feeders."
Have I left anything out of the indictment. Evidently so. Writing on Salon.com and fully documenting each charge, Wal-Mart critic Liza Featherstone adds to the list of Wal-Mart sins: firing whistleblowers, discriminating against women and black truck drivers, violating child labor laws, locking workers into stores overnight, ignoring local zoning laws, mistreating immigrant janitors, abusing young Bangladeshi women and destroying small-town America. Charges against war criminals don’t often extend this far.
The Arkansas based retailer, the largest in the world and the U.S.’s biggest private employer, is also a prime supporter and funder of right-wing political initiatives and candidates. When Wal-Mart first floated its plan to set up shop in Staten Island, the daily Staten Island Advance quoted one supporter as saying they couldn’t understand why the public should be asked to stay away from a business that charged less than did its
competitors. Extend that argument to sweatshops or to slave labor. Would you buy a TV cheap if it was made by overworked children, something that happens in free-trade zones in the Philippines and other parts of the Third World? Or a designer sneaker made at the point of a gun, as happens in China? Why not bring back slavery? Think of the money we’d save.
Shop at Wal-Mart? Thank you, no. I’d rather pound sand.